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Texas vs. Texas A&M. We've seen this movie

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How many of you knew in your heart of hearts that Texas would struggle last night? Raise your hands. How many figured AJ Abrams would have a hard time finding open looks? Justin Mason would look like a shell of his former self? Damion James would make inexplicably careless plays? And that the Aggies would show up with a case of red ass that would make Gene Keady look like Woody Allen? If you've seen the movie do a couple of jumping jacks in your cube. Check out the hot temp if it suits you.

The repetitive nature of this Texas squad doesn't stop there either. It spills over into X's and O's because the personnel is who we thought they were and the movie is challenging the Friday 13th series for subtle iterations of the same plot. One night we can't find offense against a zone. The next night it's a triangle and 2. The next night it's a box and 1. On nights we face the "rated G" coaches Texas sees a tweaked M2M that essentially refuses to guard Mason and Balbay on the perimeter. It's M2M defense in name only, however. When you're guarding a perimeter player from the paint, you're playing a one man zone in my book. But unlike Tom Izzo, I've come to grips that zone defense has no deep seated connection with the Occult. I'm cool like that.

So again last night, a Texas A&M team that plays M2M almost exclusively, finds success running a diamond and one that puts the onus on Mason and Balbay to find offense. We've seen that movie. Apparently so has Mark Turgeon. Hell, Dennis Hopper, playing the town drunk in Hoosiers, had a terrific scouting report on how to beat Texas.


"I've been watchin' how you've been breakin' the colts. But, my friend, you can not play them all the way man-on-man. They got no head-toppers. Cedar Knob, a bunch of mites, run ya off the boards. You got to squeeze em back in the paint. Make em chuck it from the cheap seats. Watch the purgatory they call a gym, no drive 12 foot in." --Shooter Flatch

Yeah, that's our offensive scouting report in a nutshell, sans Dex Pittman. I would even offer some Big Lebowski words of wisdom describing how we got to this point.

WALTER
Look, Larry. . . Have you ever heard
of Vietnam?

DUDE
Oh, for Christ's sake, Walter!

WALTER
You're going to enter a world of
pain, son. We know that this is
your homework. We know you stole a
car--

DUDE
And the f'ing money!

WALTER
And the f'ing money. And we know
that this is your homework, Larry.

No answer.

WALTER
You're gonna KILL your FATHER, Larry!.

FINALLY, IN DISGUST:

WALTER
Ah, this is pointless.

As he shoves the homework back in the attache case:

WALTER
All right, Plan B. You might want
to watch out the front window there,
Larry.

He is heading for the door. The Dude, puzzled, rises to
follow him.

WALTER
This is what happens when you F*CK a
STRANGER in the ASS, Larry.

OUTSIDE

Walter is striding down the lawn with his attache case like
an enraged encyclopedia salesman. Without looking back at,
the Dude, who follows:

WALTER
F'ing language problem, Dude.

He pops the Dude's trunk, flings in the briefcase and takes
out a tire iron.

WALTER
Maybe he'll understand this.

He is walking over to the Corvette.

WALTER
YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS, LARRY!

CRASH! He swings the crowbar into the windshield, which
shatters.

WALTER
YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS?!

CRASH! He takes out the driver's window.

WALTER
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU F'CK A
STRANGER IN THE ASS!

Lights are going on in houses down the street. Distant dogs
bark.

WALTER
HERE'S WHAT HAPPENS, LARRY!

CRASH!

WALTER
HERE'S WHAT HAPPENS! F'CK A STRANGER
IN THE ASS!

That whole scene kept rolling around in my head as I watched our guard play flounder last night. This is what happens when you haven't recruited good guard play. When you have a point guard that can't shoot a lick and your bread is buttered with the screen roll, this is what happens. When you have an off guard that can't create his own shot and he happens to be your only true shooter on the floor. This is what happens. When your best players are front court players that thrive 10 feet and in, with no guard play to get them the basketball or punish teams for packing the paint, this is what happens. It's a movie we've seen pretty much all year. On to the players...

AJ Abrams
You really can't fault AJ this game. Did he take some bad shots? Sure. But what else can he do? He's turning games into four on four matches which should make it easier for players at the major college level to score. Especially players that ostensibly can penetrate at will against international competition. Throw in future NBA players like Dexter Pittman and Damion James, and you wonder how anyone can blame AJ Abrams for Texas failing to win a 4 on 4 ballgame offensively. The kid's not Allen Iverson, we should all get that by now.

Damion James
You can count on him making 3-4 bizarre turnovers every game. He'll take 3-4 horrible shots. Then he'll hit a 3, grab 8 boards with his head above the rim and do stuff that wows you. His inconsistency is maddening. Some want him to go on ahead to the NBA, and I think those people are nuts. Put 3 guys on the floor with him that can handle the basketball and turn him into a finisher and rebounder. He'll flourish. His statline was terrific by the way, 6-12 16 points, 11 boards and 4 assists. If you want him gone, you're crazy.

Connor Atchley
He hit a big three during the only run Texas could muster. He's still killing us, however. This team needed him to be a perimeter scoring threat to makeup for the lack of perimeter shooting in the backcourt. It ain't happenin'. Insult to injury, Connor had more turnovers than boards.

Justin Mason
Justin needs to be a fourth option defensive specialist and he can excel in that role next year. If he's your counter punch to what teams are doing to you defensively, you're in big trouble. His 3 ball looked like he was hoping he wouldn't miss. Texas A&M guarded him like they were hoping he'd shoot it.

Gary Johnson
Onions. He's coming to play every night, guard play be damned. I thought he was hamstrung by a couple of poor offensive foul calls. The rule of verticality is officiating's version of crocs. If Gary gets a fair shake with the whistles he scores 25 and likely fouls out Davis. Can't wait to see him wrecking shit next year.

Dogus Balbay
I'm trying to get on board. I really am. But when you shoot as poorly as Balbay, you better do everything else at a special level to be a point guard for an elite college basketball team. And I'm assuming that's what we're striving for at Texas. The elite level. Defensively, Doge was miserable. I'm sorry but if you can't stay in front of Donald Sloan, how can you stay in front of guards with dynamic offensive games. Couple the horrible defensive effort with the offensive stat line, and I don't see how the kid gets playing time next year. Other than in a back up capacity. Roland, Sloan, Harris, and Holmes outplayed Balbay last night. Frankly, it wasn't even close. This is what happens, Rick.

Varez Ward
I was pleased to see Ward give a metaphoric middle finger to the staff by taking and hitting a 3 after being pulled for missing one at Nebraska. Someone's got to shoot the damn ball confidently. Problem is, Ward got lost guarding Carter a couple times, and that simply can't happen.

Dexter Pittman
He's the club's best offensive weapon currently, and Texas needs to run offense through him, especially when facing the diamond and 1. He nearly single handedly fouled out the Aggie frontcourt which was predicted in the preview. It's not rocket science. The kid's an absolute bull who has a chance to be all-big 12 next year if he gets more than 20 minutes per. If teams have to play him head up, as they will next year, he's going to go berserk. There won't be a player in the nation that can handle him down low without help. 13 points on 5 attempts, 11 boards, and no turnovers in 20 minutes. Sick.

Coaching
We've talked about zone offense ad naseum on this site. It's the price you have to pay when you roll out 1 bona fide perimeter shooter. Our execution against the junk defenses like the diamond and 1 or box and 1 is even more puzzling because they are much easier to attack if you have time to prepare. Evidently we haven't.

Defensively, Coach hinted at the problem. Texas A&M always gets up for us and we didn't match their intensity. Well, that certainly showed on defense. When you let the aggies drop 81 on you on 50% shooting, with all the defensive talent Texas has, that's a concern. This movie has been a concern game after game. Time to change the reel.

Thoughts?

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